Liverpool teenager Ben Woodburn backed to thrive as Gareth Bale replacement for Wales

  • Dave Edwards believes Reds academy graduate is "cut from the same cloth" as injured Real Madrid star.

  • Edwards: "He will relish the chance to show everyone he is the real deal."

  • Woodburn netted a dramatic late winner on his international debut against Austria in September.

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Wales midfielder Dave Edwards has drawn parallels between Ben Woodburn and a young Gareth Bale, claiming that the highly-rated Liverpool teenager could thrive in the event that he is chosen to deputise for his illustrious compatriot for two vital 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland.

Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales, without an appearance at the planet's biggest single-sport competition since 1958, have seen their hopes of securing a play-off spot in Group D significantly hampered by the news that talisman Bale will not be available for either fixture.

The 28-year-old suffered a calf injury during last week's 3-1 Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund and subsequently missed the La Liga clash with Espanyol.

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Although Zinedine Zidane insisted that absence was simply precautionary, Bale was yesterday ruled out of crucial matches in Tbilisi and Cardiff after being sent for another scan following discussions between the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and Real Madrid.

It has since been speculated that the former Tottenham Hotspur forward could miss approximately one month as a result of his latest fitness setback, a time frame that would see him sidelined for both Champions League ties against his former employers. He could also be doubtful for the World Cup play-offs in mid-November, should Chris Coleman's side advance to that stage.

It is seven years since Wales last won an away fixture minus Bale and many have speculated that his absence could present an opportunity for Woodburn to build on his explosive start to life in international football.

The 17-year-old Liverpool academy graduate came off the bench to net an excellent and critical late winner on his debut against Austria last month and follow Bale as the second youngest goalscorer in Wales history. He succeeded Michael Owen as his club's youngest goalscorer last season with an EFL Cup quarter-final effort against Leeds United.

"I've seen a lot of Ben in this campaign and he reminds me of what Gareth was like when he was younger," 41-cap Reading midfielder Edwards was quoted as saying by talkSPORT. "And if you see what Gareth was like in the Euros, the bigger the stage, the more he thrives.

"There aren't many players who can do that when the whole world is watching. But from what I've seen I'm pretty sure Ben is cut from the same cloth and he will relish the chance to show everyone he is the real deal."

Edwards admitted that his heart sank when he heard the news regarding Bale, but pointed to the 1-1 draw in Serbia last year - a match Bale missed through suspension - as evidence of Wales' ability to cope without their key man. He also insisted that the depth of the options available to Coleman is a "a million miles apart" from when he first arrived on the scene.

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Tom Bradshaw was initially drafted into the squad as a result of Bale's omission, while Barnsley teammate Ryan Hedges has now been called up as a replacement for injured Norwich City midfielder Marley Watkins.

Will Chris Coleman call upon Ben Woodburn to replace Gareth Bale against Georgia and Ireland?Michael Steele/Getty Images

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